Meat-Packing Lawsuit Misses the Real Reason Why the Law of the Jungle Rules the Industry

A recent lawsuit filed by workers in the food industry charges that key chicken processors in Maryland have been using illegal methods to hold down wages and benefits in food processing.  The case names Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms, JCG Foods, Wayne Farms, Perdue Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp, Peco Foods, and WSFP Foods, among others in what is expected to be an attempted class action suit.

All this comes on the heels of complaints that working conditions in food processing have been declining over the years, partly in response to the systemic use of illegal labor, a practice that undermines the bargain leverage of all workers.

Of course, the opponents of immigration enforcement never mention this fact. Ignoring the plain-view evidence that employers knowingly hire aliens not authorized to work, the suit claims that corporate executives get together and plan their pay and benefits through illegal collaboration.  They hope to prove this through pre-litigation discovery. 

In response, Perdue replied:  “We do not believe this suit has any merit,” spokesperson Andrea Staub, told Bloomberg in an email. “Our compensation philosophy is to pay fair and in some cases above average wages.”

Wow, above average wages? How would you achieve a figure for “average wages” if some people weren’t paid above (or below) the average? 

A few years ago, PBS did a series on meat packing, and found that there’s been real regression in the industry, even suggesting things aren’t much better than in 1906, when Upton Sinclair wrote his famous exposé on the Chicago meat packing industry, The Jungle

“But some critics say America’s meat business,” PBS said, “has been in decline for decades and that the poor conditions found in slaughterhouses and packing facilities today are often little better than those described by Sinclair a century ago.” 

In real dollar terms, meat packing seems to pay a lot less than it did as recently as 1980. Until immigration is properly limited and immigration and employment laws properly enforced, the problem will just get worse and worse.

About Author


Dan is the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s President after joining the organization in 1982. He has testified more than 50 times before Congress, and been cited in the media as "America's best-known immigration reformer." Dan has appeared on virtually every significant TV and radio news/talk program in America and, in addition to being a contributing editor to, has contributed commentaries to a vast number of print media outlets.


  1. avatar

    It’s not surprising that children raised in “cultures” that believe bull fighting, horse tripping, cock fighting, and horse goring are “sports” grow into adults who are willing to visit all kinds of horrors on terrified animals. Animal welfare organizations have even documented deliberate acts of cruelty the foreigners did to downers for “fun”.

  2. avatar

    The Meat Producers Want Cheap Slave Labor

    Which doesn’t decrease my chicken price at the store one penny….it just pads the meat producers’ wallets…same with tariffs, if its unsold items, consumers’ prices decrease, not increase. Supply and demand folks.

  3. avatar

    These used to be high paying union jobs. Deservedly so since it is hard tough work. Many of these companies made a point of attracting illegals to lower wages and benefits.

    New York Mayor Bill De Blasio was on Tucker Carlson to discuss the fact that over 30 million jobs will be lost to automation in the next couple decades. But when asked if he still supported our present high immigration levels, he was all for it. Actually he supports even higher levels.

    He was playing the “we need workers” card. Hard to align concern over jobs going to automation with wanting to continue to bring in millions upon millions of people. Especially when most of them are coming because of “family reunification” and generally have fairly low levels of education. In other words people who would be competing for the very jobs being replaced. He mentioned agricultural jobs, but even many of those are going to things like mechanized picking and greenhouse growing. Which takes less workers.

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  5. avatar

    “…the suit claims that corporate executives get together and plan their pay and benefits through illegal collaboration. ” Wasn’t there another case similar to this back in either the 80s or 90s?